Creating holiday baking memories with my daughter are some of my most favorite times in the kitchen, especially when we bake sparkly, heart shaped sugar cookies. For Valentine’s Day, I pull out all the heart cookie cutters and an assortment of sprinkles! Bite-sized, heart-shaped cookies with a glittering sanding sugar crunch are stacked on platters, gifted in cellophane favor bags, or tucked into lunch boxes to bring sweet surprises throughout February – and are they ever a hit with the teachers and staff at my kid’s school! The best part about these decorated sugar cookies is that while they are delicious to eat, and manageable for kids to decorate, they are absolute stunning to look at.
Years before I started teaching cooking classes for kids is when I developed the design method for these cookies: spread a very thin layer of thick confectioners sugar glaze onto a sugar cookie, then gently press it face-down into colored sanding sugar. Carefully tap the cookie into the sugar a few times to make sure it is completely covered in sparkles, using your finger to gently form order around the sides of the cookie if by chance, some of the icing does stray. The glaze should be thick enough so that it does not run down the sides or spread off the cookie; the thicker the better! The controlled use of icing combined with the layer of fine, or coarse, sanding sugar allows the cookies to “setup” quite firm, and once dry, the cookies can be shingled or stacked without sticking together. The result is a shimmery, clean cookie that can be decorated to match any holiday, shape, or color scheme, just by switching up the color of the sparkling sugar. To keep the cookies bite-size, I always use a 1 or 2 inch cookie cutter, which is also a great way to stretch the dough – you will get many more cookies out of each batch of sugar cookie dough!
I came up with this decorating process after years of attending children’s cookie decorating events with my own kids that I can only describe as a total “free-for-all” of icing and sprinkles and no real instruction other than “decorate cookies!” And while it was very fun for the kids, we would often leave with a plate of drippy, sticky mess – not to mention a stomachache from the sugar rush. I thought, “Why not teach kids an actual cookie decorating skill they can take pride in now and remember for life?” Reinforcing to kids that “less is more” when using icing and sprinkles sets boundaries within their creative space, just like in an Art class, enabling them to create gorgeous cookies they can be proud of, with none of the drippy, sticky mess.
I view cookie decorating as a form of expression and also as an opportunity to give and share with others. It’s not just about sampling, it’s about what you create. I apply that same intention when I teach cookie classes to others. With this mindset we are often so focused on our work that an entire class can go by without anyone eating a single cookie. Cookie decorating truly is a form of Art. I hope you will give this simple, yet elegant, design method a try the next time you are baking for friends and family, and remember, “less is more.” Happy Valentine’s Day!